Back to (a slightly different part of) Ningaloo

Ningaloo skyline.
Image: Angus Livingston


By Angus Livingston
Tuesday 19 May  2009
TUCKED away in a remote corner of Western Australia, Ningaloo Reef doesn't have the profile of its more popular cousin, the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland.
However the location has an important contribution to make to the CReefs Australia project, which is now in its second year of collecting expeditions.
Comparable in latitude to Heron Island, Ningaloo offers the chance to get an understanding of the state of reef diversity on the Western side of the continent.
Last year the team went to a site a little further north of this year's site, which is based on a sheep station approximately 100km from Exmouth.
Project leader Dr Julian Caley said the location change was made after the scientists who attended last year's expedition were surveyed and indicated that they wanted a chance to sample other areas of the reef.
"Ningaloo reef is very narrow, so to sample it properly we have to move up and down the coast," he said.
The reef has not been sampled to the same extent that Heron Island and Lizard Island have, meaning a lot of scientists have been keen to participate in expeditions at this location.
"There's been a lot of interest in coming on this trip," Julian said.
"Now that we've been going for a year or so, people are better able to adjust their schedules so that they can attend."
This year the group includes a four-strong team investigating worms, a group studying soft corals and scientists looking at sponges and fish parasites.
A new collaboration has also begun with this expedition. The Ocean Genome Legacy Project is represented on a CReefs Australia expedition for the first time. This collaboration will help the researches obtain genetic barcodes for many of the species being collected. Keep watching this blog for some further detail about this new activity.
A number of scientists from previous expeditions have also returned this year, giving the project continuity and opportunities to compare results across years and with different groups of species.